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Gretchen Ardizzone

Trends in Video Content Marketing

4 Emerging Trends in Video Content Marketing

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There’s no question that video content over the years has become a huge phenomenon and marketing tactic for businesses. 78% of people watch videos online every week and 55% of people watch videos online every day.* Those are some compelling stats when it comes to creating awareness and online engagement for brands, but what type of video will capture the attention of today’s consumers? Here’s a look at four emerging trends in video content marketing that will set a precedent for video marketing.

An Extended Script

Whether it’s the brand you love or the ambassador who represents, as a fan you often follow the stories they tell. Instead of micro moments, we can expect for longer scripted plots to carry out over the seasons, with unique pieces of content dispersed to various platforms. One brand that has put this approach on the map is Kate Spade. In the winter of last year they began with their missadventures campaign following around the ever adorable, super fashionable Anna Kendrick.

The trendy, upbeat womenswear and accessory brand is now in their third series of short films. The first series “The Waiting Game” showcased the stylish celebrity locked out of her Soho pad with shopping bags filled with Kate Spade goodies. And with time to kill what else is there to do but revel in the purchase. Anna turned an unfortunate situation (aka #missadventure) into a brand marketer’s dream as she then spent her time stooped on the stairs casually playing dress up. The video was not only entertaining but also interactive; viewers could shop the product featured in the video, a truly innovative add-on to the experience. The following series “The Great Escape” and “The Best Company” continue to showcase the quirky antics of Anna and cleverly highlight the brand’s product.

Supporting Roles

So often commercial advertisements are overbearing in their approach, trying to sell you on the product that you otherwise can’t live without. Meanwhile, Kimberly Clarke has been subtly focusing on the moments—those that bring tears of joy and tears of sadness—and remind you that Kleenex will always be there when you need them. In their “Someone Needs One” campaign, a dog gets a second chance at life after being paired up with someone who similarly fights the challenges of physical disabilities. The tear jerking video is uplifting and gives hope.

Another campaign series looks at a young girl’s first day back to school as she sits on the bus filled with anxiety letting out a quiet little sob. Before stepping off the bus a young boy takes notice to approach her to debunk what she might think about boys not caring about feelings. He hands her a tissue and tells her it’s not true, and your heart melts with his sweetness. It’s not about how soft that tissue is or how many years its been around, Kimberly Clarke has focused on the moments in life when Kleenex are there, because “Someone Needs One.” The future of successful video content will take a secondary role to selling product and instead focus on sharing related stories.

Raw Footage

Transparency is an important brand attribute for today’s consumers. A few years ago, during a brand overhaul, Domino’s debuted a commercial that gave us an exclusive look at what consumers were saying about their pizza. They took an honest look at themselves, heard what customers were saying, and communicated it was time for change. It was one of the first times that a brand said, “We hear you.” Since then, consumers have begun to expect a more genuine approach. As a result, you can expect that we’re going to see more of an honest video dialogue, where scenes that might have otherwise got left on the cutting room floor end up being the raw moment that makes it all real.

Most recently, Mattel launched a campaign “You Can Be Anything” with the support of San Francisco agency BBDO. And while the creative powerhouse is known for their exceptional abilities to create compelling campaigns, the beauty in this one came through in the raw moments that they managed to capture. Sans script, BBDO used hidden cameras to capture little girls playing professionals (positions of their choice) in a real life setting. Not only are you captivated by the cuteness of the little girls, but also you get to see the real reaction to those witnesses of these little girls acting out their dream jobs.

VIP Access

Nowadays you can access video content on a variety of devices from TV to desktop to mobile phone, and brands put it out there for you to seek out. Times are changing though and one brand has adopted an innovative way to not only release their content, but also make it feel exclusive. With the launch of their bold new 3D tortilla chips, Doritos wanted to give consumers a 3D video in every bite. Instead of just making the content available anywhere online, the brand made it exclusive to those that purchased. Unique to each flavor, consumers scanned the 3D chip to unlock and access unique mobile-only content. It not only encouraged the purchase but also made you want to see what the other flavors had to offer. Moving forward, expect to see more brands create exclusive content that is unique. Think about product lines; people want information that is specific not broad in general terms.

It’s time to think outside of the box, throw away scripts, be authentic, and think about personalized content. In order to engage your audience you can’t just do what you’ve always done in the past. When it comes to video content it IS time to recreate the wheel.

*Source: Groupon Works

 

Benefits of Outsourcing Your Social Media

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Social media is beyond mainstream, and many businesses today realize the benefits the various communication platforms can provide to reaching their business goals. The reality though is that as social media becomes larger landscape and more sophisticated over time, succeeding in the social realm can be tough…and it might require some additional expertise. So, if you find yourself in this place, here’s a look at a few reasons why it might benefit you to outsource your social media.

Communicating Your Brand Message

Sure, you know your brand best, but do you know how to effectively communicate it? Whether you’re a brand new startup just getting your feet wet or you’ve been in the industry for decades, believe it or not, it can be a challenge to communicate who you are as a brand and identify what’s your tone-of-voice. If you expect your audience to connect with you, this is an extremely important point of communication. Every update, post, or image should be something that represents the attributes of your brand, and should feel authentic as if you were talking to someone in person. If you haven’t established a voice, having a team to help you identify this voice and keep it consistent can be extremely valuable. Some of the best brands (small and large) are seamlessly managed by outside resources because they’ve been able to embrace the brand’s unique style of communication and flawlessly engage with their audience.

Socially Active Experts

Social media is an ever-evolving form of online communication, and there’s no reason to expect it to slow down anytime soon. Marketers managing social media have to stay on top of new trends and platform innovations. Whether it’s a new algorithm update, click to buy feature, advertising enhancements, etc., … it’s difficult to stay abreast of the social media environment unless you’re living it every day. Having a team of individuals, who can assess the environment, test new platforms, understand the opportunities and debunk the fleeting pop-up of platforms ultimately can save you a whole lot of time and provide focus.

Scaling as You Grow

As you grow, so should your audience, and with that comes more activity and the need for more engagement. And while you may be able to get things off the ground initially, as you continue to grow and see success, tending to social media may not be feasible. Let’s be honest, you still have a day job. Having dedicated individuals, who are there when your customers ask questions, have a customer complaint, or just want to sing the praise of your brand, could establish a new customer relationship, strengthen an existing, or renew a fading one.

Putting Money Where It Matters

Some platforms require a little extra power to get off the ground, to expose your brand to new audiences, or frankly just to stay visible, and sometimes it costs a little to get your voice heard. The unfortunate part is if you’re not familiar with the platform, you could be tossing money in the wind with no return on investment or your time. Those who manage social media day-to-day actively should understand where your time and dollars are best spent, be able to establish ideal budgets, and project anticipated results based on your desired goals.

Analysis of Activity

If you haven’t benchmarked social media goals (followers, reach, engagement, impressions, etc), how do you know if you’re succeeding or failing? Yes, every platform has available analytics, but if you don’t understand what the data is telling you, then how can you be sure that you’re getting the most out of your efforts. If you see engagement declining or impressions increasing, a social media team should be able to pinpoint what has resulted in a decrease or increase, and determine the appropriate actions to respond accordingly.

 

Bottom line don’t be afraid to ask for (outside) help. If you’re not sure how to approach social media or keep on top of it, consider asking a team with social media expertise to evaluate your current performance. You might just find that outsourcing your social media could be a real benefit to your brand and your customers.

Beyond the Blog: Benefits of a White Paper

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There’s no denying the power of a blog, in fact it’s one of our most valuable communication tools and one that we recommend for our clients for a multitude of reasons. But the reality is that just about everyone has a blog these days, and the criteria for content creation and who’s creating is sometimes loose. Beyond the blog though there are other content formats that can provide additional value and have higher levels of expectation like the white paper.

A white paper is intended to be an authoritative, in-depth piece that educates the reader on your unique point of view. Some might tell you it’s an old-school technique that has lost its luster. Don’t be quick to judge. If crafted properly the return on investment can be valuable in terms of generating new leads, creating brand awareness, and establishing an expert reputation.

Where Do You Start?

Start by creating a creative brief. This will help outline all the necessary details you need to establish from the beginning, as well as provide a great resource to share with internal stakeholders to get everyone on the same page, and make sure it fits within the company’s overall positioning. Here’s a quick look at what the creative brief should include:

  • Describe the initiative
  • Outline what is the focus or big idea of the piece
  • Highlight what are the supporting themes
  • Identify the primary audience
  • Establish what is the benefit for the reader
  • Identify what you want to gain
  • Determine what action you want the reader to take
  • And lastly establish a timeline

Content Quick Tips

Capture attention. Much like a blog post you’ve got to create a captivating title that’ll attract readers. Make it powerful and intrigue them to give a little whether it’s their contact information or just the time it takes them to read. Consider an active verb suggesting the need to take action.

Tell them something they don’t already know. Share some secret sauce or exclusive insight that they might not have otherwise known unless they read your white paper. Make it thought provoking.

Build credibility. Consider co-writing with other industry experts or simply including a relevant quote from an influential individual that supports your content.

Do your research. White papers shouldn’t just be an opinion piece. Do your homework to compile supporting information and stats or interview subject matter experts.

Make it visual. Yes, the primary focus here is the content, but a bunch of words on a blank white page is going to be a total snooze to the reader. Use compelling photography and embrace colors and fonts as a way to highlight or call out key points within the piece.

Don’t focus on length. White papers vary in length from several to double-digit page numbers. What’s important to remember in the ideal length of the piece is that it should be long enough to convey your point effectively—period. Don’t make it too short that the reader feels disappointed that they didn’t get much out of it, but don’t add fluff to reach an arbitrary page length.

To gate or not to gate, that is the question. There are benefits on both ends of the spectrum. By gating the white paper you gain valuable contact information and can help you build email lists and provide an opportunity for follow up. On the flip side there’s also hesitancy amongst most individuals to want to provide that information. Consider not gating the information with the belief that the content will be powerful enough to ignite the reader to need to contact you. You can also try gating the white paper for a period of time, and then opening up after it’s been out in the public for a bit.

Plan for Promotion

There’s no sense in creating a great piece of content if you only intend to put it up on the website in hopes that someone will come find it. That’s like publishing a book and putting it in the library with the hope that it gets discovered one day. Establish a promotion plan the beginning.

  • Consider creating a few blog posts on the subject in advance to further position credibility around the point of view.
  • Develop a tiered approach to distribution. Establish a segment of customers that you can provide exclusive access to before you officially make public to everyone else.
  • After that, utilize social media channels for additional distribution, and consider both organic and paid promotion.
  • Add calls-to-action in other logical places of the website where visitors might see it, or add a link in the bottom of your email to help spread the word in day-to-day communications.
  • Share with online resources and publications that might be interested to feature the piece.

While it may take days or weeks to produce a long-form piece of content like a white paper the benefits can outweigh only focusing on short-form content pieces like a blog post as a part of your overall content marketing strategy.

Photo Credit: Dan Taylr

5 Simple Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Blogging

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Blogs are the most valuable type of content, according to more than one-third of today’s marketers (Source: ContentPlus). I could go on and on about the benefits of blogging from establishing authority to building trust to educating your audience, but the key though is effectively blogging. And let’s be honest though, while it may be the most valuable type of content, we know it takes a good amount of work to do it well. Here are 5 simple tips to get the most out of your blogging efforts.

Write for Your Audience Not For You

Creating great content always starts with focus, and that comes from understanding the audience you’re writing to attract. It’s easy to get excited about a topic and see something new and be tempted to write a post about it. I’ll be honest I’ve done it on occasion too. But the content that will provide the greatest value is a piece that is written for the intended reader and not you. Remember, you are not the target.

Having a content strategy in place will help you benchmark the audience you’re writing for and be a guide. For example, this post is geared to helping businesses improve their blog writing skills with a few simple tips and tools.

It’s never too late to implement a content strategy supported by an editorial calendar. Having an editorial calendar will keep you organized of course, but also help to monitor your keyword use and topic balance to ensure that you’re reaching your defined target with a variety of post topics. There’s a ton of free tools out there for editorial calendars from HubSpot and Content Marketing Institute, it just depends on your personal preference. Find one that works for you and get your content ideas documented. If all else fails you can even create one yourself with a simple excel sheet making sure to track authors and due dates, titles and content details, keywords and target personas, and lastly, your call-to-action.

Be Creative With Titles

Creating a great blog post may not matter if you don’t put as much consideration into creating a great title. By creating a title that will grab the attention of your audience you can help improve your click through-rate.  When thinking about using common vs. unique adjectives in your title, go for unique. Adjectives that aren’t used as frequently in other posts will help make your title stand out more. By adding more emotional words to your post title you can also increase interest. Positive emotional words promote a better chance of being shared as well. Use social promotion as a way of testing your headlines. Tweet the content using different headlines to test which preforms better.

You can even try using a tool like CoSchedule’s Blog Post Headline Analyzer. Once you plug in your post title the tool will analyze the overall quality and rate its ability to result in social shares and SEO value. I even used it creating this post title (feel free to check out how I score).

Make it Easily Shareble

If your reader is challenged to find a way to easily share your article you can bet they won’t spend long trying to figure out how. Make it easy for them. Hopefully you’ve already incorporated social sharing buttons on your blog, but beyond that you can utilize “Click to Tweet” to highlight key points or powerful stats in your post.

Create a custom post graphic. You’ve heard it probably a million times a picture is worth a thousand words. Well it may not be worth a thousand words but, it may just make the difference between a post getting read or shared. Posts with images get 94% more total views than those without (source: Jeff Bulas).

Custom graphics resonate even more with readers than stock photography. If you’re like me and you read a lot of blogs, you’ve maybe even started to notice the same stock photo trending over other posts. Be unique and utilize imagery, fonts, and colors that relate to your brand.

Spelling, Grammar or Language Misstakes

We’re all human, and occasionally make typos or you might find yourself using the wrong tense of a verb. Heck you might even find one in this post (hopefully not). But a post that is poorly written or laden with grammatical errors is going to lose your reader real fast. There are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening though.

Start by having someone else read your post. Chances are you’ve read your post over and over and aren’t likely to catch simple errors because you know what you’re trying to convey. If you’re using a CMS system like WordPress, you can also consider starting your blog post in a word document. Typical spelling errors and awkward sentence structures are bound to be identified.

If you really want to get technical though, try a web app like Hemingway. Paste your text into Hemmingway and it’ll identify hard to read sentences, complex phrases, adverbs and passive voice. Each one is highlighted with a different color to help you identify what you might need to change. Beyond just sentence structure and analyzing the types of words used in the post, Hemmingway evaluates the readability of the post and identifies what grade level is needed to understand the text. The best content is written at a middle school level, so take that into your readability consideration.

Track Your Post Performance

If you write it, they will come. Not exactly. There are a lot of variables that go into getting your content discovered— content promotion for example—but if you’re not monitoring your blog traffic at all, you can’t begin to understand what’s working and what’s not. And of course you want to understand the results of your efforts.

This takes me back to the beginning of the importance of having a content strategy plan. In order to track the performance of your content, you need to understand the goals. Is it to increase sales, generate leads, create brand awareness, or establish expertise in a specific category? Depending on what you’ve identified as your goal, you can then start to look at some areas for measurement of success. If your goal is brand awareness, you might look at an increase in social media following and engagement, page views, website traffic and specifically the amount of time spent reading your posts. If your goal is to generate leads, you’ll want to measure email subscription or sign-ups and content form submissions. Evaluating your blog performance will only help make certain that the content you create is getting the recognition it deserves.

Now get out there and go write something!

JetBlue Uses Social Media for a Social Movement

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Social media is a powerful business tool, but it can also be an amazing vehicle for doing good. JetBlue recently caught my eye when I heard about what they were doing to embrace social media and create a social movement by giving back to their travelers in the form of social sharing. With their Fly It Forward Campaign, they’ve asked individuals to tell them “If you were given one flight to spread good where would you go?” The goal is to provide fliers with a ticket to make the world a little better with the one request that they pay it forward.

It takes the simple action of traveling and makes it something much, much more. It’s about what you will do when you get there. The brand is investing and empowering travelers to give them access to making their dreams real and doing something that truly matters. JetBlue Senior Vice President of Commercial, Marty St George said it best, “It’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of travel and overlook the reasons why people travel. Everyone travels for their own reasons. It’s those stories, those connections with individuals that inspire us all.”

Fly It Forward started first with crewmembers nominating members of their communities they thought were worthy of a flight. Tameka was selected a first. As a director of I Grow Chicago, she provides a safe-haven for at-risk community members by connecting them through yoga, urban farming, art, and culture. Her purpose is to teach community ownership and help individuals realize that they matter. With JetBlue, she had the chance to visit the United Nations as a delegate and learn from other communities who fight against similar obstacles in order to bring it back and share what she knows.

The next evolution of the experience is the process of passing it on. The beauty of it is that these individuals have never met. It’s not a good friend or a co-worker that they know who wants to go somewhere amazing. It’s about giving these travelers a chance to hear the stories of other like-minded individuals who want to make a difference or want to experience something that would be life-changing and passing on that same opportunity. You can follow the stories as they take flight and unfold on jetblueflyitforward.com and help continue the mission by nominating yourself or submitting a worthy traveler’s story through Twitter using #FlyItForward.

 

If your brand can take consumers to a place they never thought they could go, give them the vessel to do that. Whether it’s through communicating encouragement, empowerment, or physically providing them with the tools they need…that’s a powerful position to be able to do something good.

Twitter

Twitter: Feeding the Need for Change

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Feeling pressure from investors to change, Twitter is speculated to be introducing an algorithm-driven feed, much like you might be familiar with on Facebook. Currently what you see in your Twitter feed is a continuous flow of content from those that you follow and the occasional insert of a promoted tweet.

At the Citi Global Technology Conference earlier this month, Twitter CTO Anthony Noto said: “the reverse-chronological system that Twitter users for its timeline isn’t the most relevant experience for a user.” Ironically, it’s the very reason why many are such fans of the feed, myself included. I prefer to know that what I’m viewing is the content that’s being posted most recent, and there’s no circulation of tweets from the prior day mixed in with content that’s being published today.

Why the change then?

Even with its 271 million monthly active users, Twitter feels the pressure to continue to grow. And one of the things they believe holding them back from that is the complexity for first-time users (hello, have you been on Google+?). So the speculated reaction is an algorithm-driven timeline feed to organize content.

What does this mean?

Organic reach on Twitter will much likely meet the demise we saw for businesses on Facebook. It might be time to become an adopter (if you’re not already) of Twitter ads and at least start testing to see what works best for you or your brand. If you still want to get the exposure you currently get, you just might have to be willing to pay for it going forward.

What can you do?

If you want to have more control over your feed, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with Twitter lists. It’s not a new feature, but sometimes the benefits are overlooked. A list allows you to see the tweets from the list members you’ve created as a separate Twitter timeline…I like to call it my “clean feed.”

Twitter lists allow you to organize people based on relevant areas of interest. For example, I might create the Twitter list for myself that focuses on Content Marketing or Search Engine Optimization. That specific list then becomes a go-to-guide related to that subject matter; eliminating all the conversations in your feed, but content focused more on the specific topic of immediate interest.

You can set Twitter lists to be public or private. If you’re using your list as a business-prospecting tool or maybe to monitor your competitors, private may be the way to go. There are some perks to making your list public though. When you add someone to your list they’re notified and if they’re not already following you it sometimes encourages them to follow back. It can also establish your credibility as being an authority on a particular subject and you might find others will subscribe to your list. Subscribing to others’ lists is a nice way to monitor that feed, but without having to follow all of the members. And lastly, sometimes it’s just an easy way to introduce yourself to someone by letting an individual know you’ve added him or her to your list.

What else can we expect?

Other rumored changes are a more sophisticated search feature and group chat function. What one change I’d love to see is editable tweets! Facebook finally caught on that users wanted that capability to edit their posts. Even in 140 characters, it’s easy to make mistakes. And while that tweet may be short-lived with the average life cycle of a tweet only lasting 18 minutes, I prefer my spelling, mentions, and punctuation to be on-point for the followers who are viewing.

My hope is that Twitter doesn’t succumb to the presses to change from a follower-based feed. My biggest fear is with the continuous updates that all of these social media platforms are making, will we get to a point when no one is unique?

Photo Credit: BeauGiles

wanelo

Why Wanelo?

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It’s a question that has been on my mind for quite some time now. For those that aren’t familiar, Wanelo, is a social platform that brings together stores, product and people all in one place. The platform whose name stands for “Want, Need, Love” launched in 2010 by web designer Deena Varshavskaya.

We know that social commerce is definitely catching on, but Wanelo has always seemed like an anomaly to me. I was an early adopter and joined in 2010 then quickly returned to my more comfortable and preferred playground on Pinterest (which many compare it to). However, this could be one for the ages. I’ve heard from my younger counterparts and read the reports that it popular with the millennial consumer.

Who’s There?

So with 11 million users, I thought it could be time to check back in. I haven’t been too far though, with my mobile app still installed and observantly paying attention to big brands like Nordstrom, West Elm, and Sephora who collab with the emerging social site.

How does it work?

Wanelo works like a direct to buy resource. Skip the hunt through blogs and unrelated resources to find the product you’re looking for, this resource allows you to directly buy from your favorite finds in your feed. You don’t complete the transaction on the site, but it connects consumers with the eCommerce site where they can buy the product. Wanelo then pockets a portion of each sale. Instead of grouping items on boards like “Collegiate Gear” like you’d find on Pinterest, the items are sorted by price point. The site also shows what’s trending and allows you to save your items on your wish list or as a gift, also while telling you the popularity of collective site “saves” for that item.

Why Consider?

If you’re looking to capture the attention of younger consumers and provide the most direct access to your product (ease and convenience), it could be a platform to consider. Don’t forget many millennial consumers are frugal with their spending, so the shop by price point is an appealing feature.

Nordstrom recognized the potential: “We noticed mid-last-year that there was lots of inbound traffic coming from Wanelo, so we quickly jumped in to create an account,” said Bryan Galipeau, director of social media at Nordstrom. “Within five months, we had a million followers, the fastest growth of any of our social media accounts.”

Not yet convinced? Consider these facts as to why you might “Want, Need, Love” to have Wanelo in your online strategy plan:

  • Over 7 million products are saved 8 million times a day
  • Wanelo users spend an average of 50 minutes per day on the site
  • Products from over 300,000 stores, including major retailers to small independent shops

Earlier this year, Wanelo’s Creator and CEO, Deena Varshavskaya was named to Fast Company’s 2014 Most Creative People list. Keep an eye out for the commerce platform, I think it’s got huge potential to evolve.

Photo credit: Wanelo

 

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Seasonal Social Media Campaigns

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In retail, cadence calendars are the crux of keeping the in-store environment fresh with seasonal floor set changes to window and graphic signage programs. But do you consider seasonality for your online experience? Social media is a great way to connect your in-store environment with your online presence. After all, your customers don’t live in your store, but they’re (almost) always online. Here are a few examples of how brands are using social media to celebrate the seasons.

Kate Spade 

As summer is often the season of travel, Kate Spade launched an Instagram campaign to build off their “Live Colorfully” tagline. And you know “Kate” doesn’t just live colorfully, but she “Travels Colorfully” too. The brand launched a contest to encourage followers to show how they #TravelColorfully for a chance to win a $250 Kate Spade New York gift certificate. Now through the end of August fans can submit their photos of their colorful travel using the hashtag. Giving the fans some inspiration, the brand shared some other own associates’ colorful travels. And the benefits for Kate? A plethora of user generated content for them to use!

They also recently launched a giveaway in partnership Travel + Leisure (who I think knows a thing or two about travel) to visit their stores to enter  a “Make Waves in Rio” sweepstakes to win a sunny escape to Rio de Janeiro, a $1,000 gift card, and a summer-ready tote filled with the season’s essentials. The promotion takes place online, but ultimately encourages fans to come in-store.

This two-part approach, campaign and giveaway, satisfies both the in-store and online shopper who may not have access to a Kate Spade New York store. A great way to reach multiple audiences.

Anthropologie

If you’re not lavishly traveling around the globe like the Kate Spade fans, Anthropologie is capturing the customer who plans to entertain at home this summer. Looking for ideas and trends in outdoor entertainment venue, the brand lunched a Pinterest #PinToWin contest. Pinners were encouraged to create their own boards around summer gathering themes like cocktail parties and poolside lounging; each pin identified with the hasthags #Anthropologie and #PinToWin. Three winners will be selected to win the  “Ultimate Outdoor Spread,” $500 worth of Anthropologie dining and entertaining items of their choosing.

What’s interesting about this contest is that it doesn’t require participants to pin only Anthropologie product, but it gives participants free range to incorporate whatever product brands they want in their boards. By doing this it doesn’t limit the consumer to existing products, and helps Anthropologie identify what future products might be of interest for the brand to create. It also gives them an opportunity to spot any new outdoor trends, for example popular colors, patterns or even new themed events.

Travelocity

Sometimes it’s just as simple as a statement. In this case, “I wanna go.” The Travelocity social media contest featured on both Twitter and Instagram encouraged followers to share their dream destination with a photo or just a tweet the hashtah #IWannaGo. Two winners were selected from thousands that submitted to win the trip of a lifetime. Check out this brief video featuring the brand’s ornamental globetrotting garden gnome, Roaming Gnome, promoting the contest.

While the contest was relatively simple for participation, there’s more to it said the brand’s CMO, Bradley Wilson. “It’s a way to celebrate the universal truth of wanderlust and to encourage travelers to share their travel dreams with others,” he said. “Whether it’s booking a quick trip to see family and friends or traveling to far-off lands and exotic destinations, we want to hear about it…we also want to help you get there. We want to know, where do you wanna go?” The brand also cleverly ran advertising spots during commercials for the Amazing Race; an audience which one might think would be inspired to travel the world.

Seasonal social media campaigns and contests have tons of benefits for brands when executed properly. The goal should be bigger than just gaining a following (which is okay too), but use it as an opportunity to learn something about your followers, fans, and customers.

Photo Credit: Boudewijn Berends

mail slot in door

Email Marketing Etiquette

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I sign up for emails from a lot of  businesses and service providers. Why? Not necessarily because I’m looking to purchase something, but because its a good way to study communications from a variety of brands. Recently though, I’ve noticed some of the basic mechanics of email communication seem to be missing. And if that doesn’t seem like a big deal then consider the fact that 122,500,453,020 emails are sent every hour (source: Madison Logic). So a subpar email is bound to get ignored. Here are my tips for email marketing etiquette:

Introduce Yourself

I’ve received emails from a variety of people that I know I never subscribed to their email. I imagine they acquired my address from a third party resource or just simply found my contact info published somewhere online. And while I guess I appreciate the resourcefulness, your first communication shouldn’t be the same that you send to every other contact or subscriber in your database. Introduce yourself and explain why you feel what you have to offer is relevant to me. Getting a blind email is extremely confusing and often leaves me wondering why I received the email in the first place, even if your offer could be something of interest. Set the framework with whom you’re communicating, and you’re more likely to gain traction.

Humor is Okay, But Don’t Be Cheesy

I recently received an email from someone who was obviously trying to get my attention the subject line titled, “Eaten By Alligators.” Of course my interest was peeked and the email went something like this…

Hi Gretchen,

I’ve attempted to reach you, but have had no success. Either you’ve been eaten by alligators or you’re just plain swamped. If you have been eaten by alligators, my deepest sympathy goes out to your family members. If you’re still alive, one of the following is more likely to have happened. I hate to keep pestering you, but I do want to express my desire to chat with you more about whether or not our work management system may be a fit. Please pick one response and let me know what our next step should be.

_____ Yes, I’ve been eaten by alligators. Please send flowers.

_____ No, I haven’t been eaten by alligators, but you may wish I had been, because I have decided I have no interest in your service. Sorry, you’re sunk. (Thanks for your frank honesty. I can handle it.)

_____ Yes, we have some interest in learning more about (Company Name), but here are my challenges…

_____ Yes, we have some interest in leveraging (Company Name) to manage our work better. Call me to set a time for us to meet.

_____ I’m not the right person, please contact ____________.

Kind Regards,

(Contact’s Name)

Okay, so they achieved their goal of getting my attention, but to be honest I don’t recall receiving any other messages from this person prior to this. Also, the email left me so fixated on the element of being eaten by alligators I had no real grasp of what the company does or what they have to offer other than the brief mention of a “work management system.” Make sure you don’t get caught up in the act of being funny and forget the purpose of your email. This could be your one chance to get your recipients attention, don’t lose sight of that.

Watch Your Tone (of voice)

We’ve written several posts about how important it is to identify your company’s voice, and that same tone of voice should be utilized in your email communication. Whether it’s one email or a larger email to a segmented group, the tone used should convey an expression accurate to your brand. For a recipient receiving an email for the first time its an introduction to who you are and for someone who’s received emails from you in the past the language should be consistent with what they would expect. For example, if you’ve ever received an email from anyone at Shout Out you can expect there might be reference for a casual conversation over coffee. Why? Because we believe everything starts with a conversation, not a sales pitch. Throwing numbers at you is not our style, we genuinely want to discover what your challenges are and how we can help you achieve them, so that often starts with coffee.

Don’t Just Repeat The Past

If you’re seeing that your email open rates are not improving, you’re getting more opt-outs, or not successfully driving traffic to your website, don’t just keeping doing the same thing. We all know the famous quote from Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It could be time to evaluate your message. Try A/B testing campaigns to see what resonates with people and use the data to make changes. Explore your call-to-action. Do you have one? Personalize the email. Open rates increase significantly just by addressing the recipient by name. Create a captivating subject line that conveys the point of your message. The subject line is the first barrier to overcome in getting someone to open your email.

Extend The Conversation Beyond Email

Your email is just one vehicle to communicate with your audience, but why should the conversation stop there? Make sure you provide contact information where your audience can learn more about your company. It’s amazing how many emails I’ve received that don’t provide a simple link to their website. Make it easy, don’t make them hunt for you. And don’t forget to utilize social media links to encourage them to follow you on the various platforms where your brand is active. It could be an easy way to get your customers into the next stage of an engagement process.

 

Have any email marketing tips of your own? Leave us a line in the comments, we’d love to hear what works for you.

Photo Credit: loop_oh

Person listening to a can

Benefits of Social Media Scheduling and Social Listening

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Managing social media, whether it be for yourself, another brand or client, requires constant activity and responsiveness. The most efficient way I think people can stay at the top of their social game is to utilize social media scheduling and social listening. Some individuals might see the negative in automating some of the process, but I want to share with you a few reasons why it’s efficient and can actually provide you the time you need to be more actively engaged with your followers.

Scheduling

There are a number of social media management tools that can be used for scheduling communications. Ask anyone and you’ll likely get several different suggestions. We’ve found great success with HootSuite and Sprout Social, it just depends on your particular needs and what might work best for you. HootSuite worked well for our own social scheduling, but as we’ve continued to grow and oversee social media for more of our clients, Sprout Social has been helpful to manage multiple accounts in one platform.

Why schedule? Since your audience is likely not online 24/7, you can select various times throughout the day to publish your content to test what time of day you get the most traction. Depending on the platform, you can also select messages to be published at the most optimal time for engagement.

When it comes to the content shared on social media, we believe in a balance of curated and original content. But curating the right content can also take time. Instead of having to hunt down news items to share, set up an account with an aggregator like Feedly or Scoop.It. You can also use notification services like Google Alerts, Talkwalker or Mention to receives alerts when a brand or topic is mentioned or a news item is published. By curating that content and scheduling, you can spend active time responding to mentions or comments, as well as reviewing other content that could be suitable to retweet or share.

Social Listening

Here’s where efficiency with your time leads to activity. Social listening can provide extreme benefits. To start social listening establish keywords and streams to track for conversations relevant to your brand. By doing this it helps identify opportunities for you to engage with both followers and non-followers. Here are a few additional areas you can gain insight from listening:

Trending Topics: Understand what topics are trending in relation to your brand. This could help you identify gaps in the marketplace for a particular product offering or service, or could help you establish positioning for a particular marketing campaign.

Content Ideas: If you see a trending topic, leverage for creating timely content. Maybe you notice over a period of time a lot of followers asking questions about a certain subject. Put yourself in an authority position by creating a how-to guide, e-book, quick tips, or anything else that might ease the consumer’s pain points around the matter.

Identifying Influencers: Pay attention to individuals that are often talking about topics that relate to your brand. These are ideal people to encourage to follow your brand to have them help spread the word. You can start by following them, sharing their content, and then progress into more genuine conversations. When the time feels right you can consider offering a product sample for review, or invite them to participate in a consumer panel to gather deeper insights. Some brands even scout out online influencers to serve as brand ambassadors or bloggers.

Recognize Advocates: Pay attention to brand advocates. They have powerful insight and can sometimes prevent you from making brand blunders. While they may love your brand, they’re often the first to speak up when they’re not happy. You may recall when Maker’s Mark announced they were going to reduce the amount of alcohol content in their product. Customers took to social media to address their displeasure and ultimately the brand (wisely) reversed their decision.

Geographic Targeting: It’s a big, big world of social media and while you have the capability to communicate with audiences all over the world, sometimes your marketing efforts require a more targeted approach. You can narrow your listening focus to help deliver locally relevant content, and could be ideal if you’re launching in a new market.

Responding to Customer Service Issues: I mentioned in previous post on customer service that not all issues are brought directly to you. By listening to online to consumer complaints you can identify opportunities where its advised to mitigate the situation. Turning a negative into a positive situation can be one of the best things you can do for your brand. But don’t just put on a social front, make sure you follow through with appropriate action. Don’t be a Lululemon transparent pants-gate (sorry Lulu).

Competitor Monitoring: Not only is it a good idea to listen to what consumers are saying about you, but it’s also advised to watch out (or listen) for the competition. You can identify customer disconnects and use them as brand advantages. It’s also good to see how you stack up, and what you can learn (and then do it better).

Again, the key point with social media scheduling is not just creating content, publishing, and walking away. Instead it’s about actively listening and finding opportunities to engage with people. It doesn’t mean less involvement, just a more organized and strategic approach, and when done right, can lead to great dividends in the end.

Are you scheduling your social media content and actively listening to online conversations? We’d love to hear how it works for you. Share your experience in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Melvin Gaal (Mindsharing.eu)

Switchboard Operators

Online Customer Service

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Good customer service can make or break obtaining and retaining a customer online. It’s no different than in-store. Nordstrom has thrived for years as being the brand that is best known for providing excellence in customer service. The truth is that customers have those same expectations for your brand online, and as eCommerce continues to grow customer service is going to be the key differentiator for where consumers want to invest their money. It’s also one way that small businesses can level the playing field with big brands. Here are some things to consider in providing customer service online:

Real-time Resolutions

Make it easy for your customers to contact you should they have a problem or issue they need to resolve. You’d be amazed at how difficult it can be to find contact information or customer service resources on some sites. Make it clearly visible for your customers to find, you don’t want them leaving your site in frustration. If you provide a service that could need customer support 24 hours a day, consider a service infrastructure that will allow you take care of customers’ whenever they need you.

Warby Parker uses their Warby Parker Help YouTube channel to post video responses from team members to questions posted daily to Facebook and Twitter. Amazon offers on-device tech support through Kindle’s Mayday button to let you connect with an Amazon expert via video. And while those may seem like more sophisticated methods, consider service agents that are simply skilled to support your brand. Online retailer and mens fashion brand, Jack Threads, offers a live chat service provided by university students with a keen fashion sense.

Make Sure You’re Listening

Not all customer service issues come directly to you. Customers may utilize your social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to express their issue. Monitoring your social media platforms for this type of management is crucial to respond quickly. Use social media scheduling tools like HootSuite or consider other social listening platforms like Sprout Social or Meltwater to track customers talking about your brand.

Respond Strategically

Understand that you can’t please everyone though. You may have unsatisfied customers from time to time, but it’s best to have a planned response strategy. The key is not removing the content (unless it’s offensive to others), but managing the response. Sometimes people think the best thing to do is to remove negative comment or block the person, but that could actually add more fuel to the fire. If you’re at fault, admit the error and offer to resolve. You’d be surprised how many unhappy customers might be put at ease by being acknowledged for their complaint.

Take Notes & Pass Them On

I mentioned Nordstrom at the beginning of this post and while most of the magic of their customer service takes place mostly in-store, there is a great takeaway that can even be applied to managing customer service online. The fashion retailer collects customer service examples, “Nordy stories,” from their employees and publishes to share with other employees. It goes beyond protocol for instances of handling returns or out-of-stock product, but serves as a guide to teaching employees how to be the best at serving customers.

Follow Up

Yeah, you’ve made the sale, but one great way to ensure your customers come back is to show that their feedback matters. Encourage them to provide a review about the product or service, but reward them for sharing their opinion. Maybe it’s access to an exclusive product or a free product sample. If they’re a first time customer consider offering an incentive for returning, possibly a discount of their next purchase.

Truly Serving Your Customers

Your customer service should go beyond just managing issues or getting return visits. Use your customer service as a competitive edge; make your brand unique or memorable in the consumer’s eyes. Let your service be another story they share.

I still have fond memories of staying at the Soho Grand in New York a couple of years ago. Sure it’s a fantastic hotel alone, but the amenity that caught my attention was a simple goldfish. The pet-friendly hotel offers guests a “goldfish team member” at no charge to accompany guests for the duration of their stay. It was a thoughtful gesture to make my stay more enjoyable.

Want to hear more inspiring stories of customer service? Check out this amazing collection of 10 Unforgettable Customer Service Stories by Help Scout. It just might leave you asking what have I done for my customers lately?

Photo Credit: reynermedia

three shadows in the street

Utilizing User-Generated Content in Your Content Strategy

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Your content marketing plan likely includes a combination of a blog, eBooks, whitepapers, video content, social media, and possibly a few other mediums, but one of the most compelling forms of content is created by your consumers. It’s emotional, passionate and powerful. Businesses have a huge opportunity to leverage user-generated content, and here are a few brands seeing success with this strategy:

BaubleBar

BaubleBar’s Co-Founder Daniella Yacobovsky recently spoke at National Retail Federation’s annual Retail’s BIG Show and shared how incorporating user-generated content is a highly effective tactic for BaubleBar. The brand currently integrates selfie snapshots on their website with the customers sporting their various sparkly baubles in a shoppable slideshow. Customers simply share their pic on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #BaubleBar or upload it directly to the website. According to Yacobovsky, “A third of site visitors engage with it and the conversion rate for those who do is 2.5 times higher than those who don’t.”

What’s great about this approach is that it gives the consumer a realistic view of how the product might look on them and inspiration for how to style the accessory. Much more compelling than just seeing the product on a white background, and consumers are able to relate more by seeing it on an everyday person rather than a model. And giving the consumer even more reason to share, the brand also selects three of their favorites every month to win $100.

I’ve mentioned before the value Pinterest can provide for businesses, and BaubleBar is no exception here. What’s interesting is though, the brand realized that “pins posted by others drove 10 times more traffic than BaubleBar’s own Pinterest content, so to encourage shoppers to pin, they redesigned and emphasized the “Pin it” button on product pages.” Instead of just thinking about your Pinterest strategy as a separate entity, think about how you can make it useful in the shopping experience and integrate into your website. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited websites and pinned items to my style board to serve as a virtual reminder, and essentially a trail of crumbs to where I can buy the product when I’m ready.

Juicy Couture

To promote its new sports apparel product line, Juicy Couture has engaged with the photo-sharing platform, Snaps to get consumers involved. Snaps is similar to Instagram but allows consumers to edit and add graphic content to their photos. The app has a two-fold purpose for the Juicy Couture brand: to allow consumers to add Juicy graphic elements related to fitness and working out, and share with friends and family, as well as try on Juicy Couture Sports product to see how it looks on them via their mobile device.

The method is effective in branding the images beyond just a hashtag connection and gives the consumer the chance to virtually try on a product, but the user-generated content has potential greater than just the selfie.

Warby Parker

I’ve praised Warby Parker in previous posts for their genius marketing efforts, and this may not be the last. The online eyewear brand with a home try-on program wholeheartedly believes in word-of-mouth marketing has found a way to incorporate user-generated content. The brand encourages consumers to use their social network to help in the selection process of their perfect frame by posting a pic of themselves wearing the various options on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.  Warby Parker’s Co-founder and Co-CEO, David Gilboa, says, “Customers who post photos of themselves in frames are buying at twice the rate as those who don’t.”

It doesn’t have to be just about promoting the product when it comes to utilizing user-generated content, it can also benefit promoting the overall brand.

Nike

While I may be a marketer, I’m no stranger to my own contribution to providing user-generated content. In 2013 sports apparel brand, Nike carried out one of the most creative initiatives which I was lucky enough to be able to participate in, which resulted in a community of individuals sharing content like you wouldn’t believe…all for a great cause. Nike organized a Women’s 10k event to raise funds for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, oh and did I mention it was all virtual? Given the fact that there was no specific destination for this event to take place, you might think the participation would be low. Think again though.

So how did it work? Everyone had to register and pay the $40 entry fee. Each runner had to commit to running a 10k distance (6.3 miles) over a 2-day period (March 9th or 10th) whenever and wherever they chose—trail, track, road or gym—using the Nike running app to record their efforts. In true race fashion, each runner received a technical race shirt (Nike branded of course), with a blank space for runners to write in the various reasons why they run…for fun, for a cause, for those who can’t, just to name a few. Runners were then encouraged to share their route and run using the hashtag #letsturnitup.

Participants professed great satisfaction with running for a worthy cause, and over the course of the two days, runners logged 29,524 miles on the Nike running app, and filled Nike’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter news feed full of stories of individuals and groups participating in the run. Not to mention, raised almost $50,000 for LLS.

Many runners had never used the Nike running app and were exposed to a new run tracking method, at the same time feeling the reward of accomplishment. And while the event may have been virtual, that day connected thousands of individuals through social media. Well done, Nike.

While the brands I mentioned may have big marketing budgets, small brands and entrepreneurs can successfully utilize user-generated content without a significant investment, but with a sound strategy.

Photo Credit: The Real Estreya

Pinterest for Your Business

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There’s no denying there’s a visual aspect to digital marketing especially when it comes to social media—heck look at Instagram, which is virtually an image-based medium with little content. In the last couple years, Pinterest has definitely matured with an audience of 70 million users. From a medium that was once ruled by consumer pinning preferences to a place where brands have pinpointed the opportunity that lies within.

Pinterest has managed to influence many aspects of the online world. You may have even noticed big brands like a natural food market, Whole Foods, and luxury shoe brand, Jimmy Choo has adopted a Pinterest-like visual style to their website design. Most recently during the holiday season Target even created a Pinterest-powered online storefront with the beta launch of the Target Awesome Shop.

So it’s clear that brands understand that consumers like to visualize product, but let’s get back to the real question, how can you make the best use of Pinterest for your business?  Here are some suggested approaches to make Pinterest interesting to your followers:

Not Just Pinning Product

Some brands find Pinterest an anomaly and believe it’s no place for their brand. But if you think out-of-the-box and consider your strategy you might realize it’s a better fit than you think. Don’t be focused on just pinning your product. Pin things that represent your brand, inspire you or even give your followers a behind the scenes perspective into how you make the magic work. One brand who uses their pins to showcase their brand personality is Ben & Jerry’s. You’ll find boards like The People Behind the Pints, The Factory, The Flavor Graveyard, and Fan Photos, which gives recognition to the fantastic brand lovers of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. They even have a history board to serve as a visual timeline for the brand. The key is developing boards that represent your brand accurately and utilize an authentic brand voice.

Create a Guest Pinboard

Create endorsement for your brand and gain traction with your followers with an expert contributor. Piperlime’s Guest Editor, New York-based fashionista, Olivia Palermo, also serves as a guest contributor to the brand’s Pinterest profile with her own board of picks. It’s a great way to engage your audience through a like-minded point of view, but also potentially leverage interest from the guest’s followers too. At the same time explore what opportunities are out there for your brand to pose as a guest pinner for other brands. Whole Foods serves as a guest pinboard contributor for eCommerce site Etsy’s Pinterest board.

Engage with a Creative Campaign

If you’re looking to create awareness about a new product launch or seasonal product, creating a Pinterest campaign might be a great strategy for you. GUESS saw great success with their “Color Me Inspired Contest.” The brand invited pinners to create boards around spring colors that inspired them. The boards were judged by popular style bloggers and winning pinners received color-coated denim from the GUESS spring collection. Another brand who has found value in the campaign model is Michaels. In an effort to build awareness around their new upscale line of frames, “the Platinum Collection from Studio Décor,” the brand launched a “pin it to win it” contest. Little activity was required of the pinners. They simply had to re-pin a frame from Michaels “Frame” board to one of their own boards with a pre-crafted description about the frame, and they were entered to win. The end result was an increase of 86% of followers of the Frame board during the length of the contest.

Pinterest On & Offline

We know that consumers use multiple channels in the shopping process and while they may start by exploring pins online, the actual purchase may end up taking place in-store. Consider how you can bring the Pinterest activity into your in-store experience. Nordstrom was one of the first brands to really make a move with this. The high-end retail brand started to identify the most pinned products online with hangtags featured on racks in-store. We know consumers love recommended products, in fact, we know they’re more likely to select a product that has been recommended than not.

Watch for New Features

In the last six months, Pinterest has launched several new initiatives like Place Pins, which allows pinners to explore pins in a map-like visual. This creates a huge opportunity for small businesses to utilize and put themselves on the map, literally. Not to mention the integration of advertising, and also the recent purchase of VisualGraph, which will allow Pinterest to suggest more relevant content or ads. For example, if you’re always pinning pointed flats (the hot spring trend), it’ll show more of those items instead of high-heel stilettos.

The key is to keep your eye on this social media platform and determine what new elements add opportunities for your brand to engage with the consumer. Monitor others who are doing it well, learn from them and see how you can make it work for yourself. At the same time, you can also use analytics to measure your pinning presence. Check out these recommended tools from Social Media Examiner.

Photo Credit: mkhmarketing

Blogger Outreach: Building Brand Buzz

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If you’re a young brand looking to grow, but don’t have the capital to pay big bucks to get your product out there, word of mouth marketing in today’s terms might just be the right thing for you. What am I talking about? A blogger outreach campaign.

According to Nielsen Media, there are somewhere over 181 million blogs on the Internet with 6.7 million people publishing content on blog sites. That’s a whole lot of blogging going on, and a whole lot of opportunity to create some buzz. Using a blogger outreach campaign as a part of your marketing strategy can be beneficial to create brand awareness and exposure to relevant, targeted consumers.

Why does a message coming from a blogger sometimes have better reach than your marketing message? Trust. 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs, and 61% of online consumers have made a purchase based on a blog’s recommendations (Source: BlogHer). One of the ways that you can utilize this influence is by getting your product in the hands of these bloggers to conduct a product review and post content around their experience with the product. Here a few recommended steps for a successful approach:

Establish your goals: First things first with any marketing initiative it’s important to understand what the goals are for your outreach campaign. Do you want to increase foot traffic to your website, gain a following on social media, build brand awareness, introduce a new product, etc? Understanding this upfront will give you something to benchmark and determine if your strategy was a success.

Find the influencers: Next, establish your criteria for qualified bloggers. You can use Technorati, Alltop or even Google’s blog search to help you locate them. Use tools like Pagerank and Alexa to determine what kind of traffic the identified blogger is getting. This will help you save time in the long run. Why waste energy pitching to someone who isn’t relevant or the end result won’t get your reach.

Establish rapport: You don’t ask someone out on a date before you get to know them. Establish rapport first before you approach. This means following them, engaging with them on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+), commenting on and promoting content that you like (honestly).

Outreach: After you’ve had some time to “get to know” them, you’re now ready to reach out. This is a big step though. Depending on how well known the blogger is they might receive thousands of emails just like yours. Your message needs to be genuine, personal to them, and creative. Something has to make them want to read it. If it sounds like a blanketed message, then chances are you’re just wasting your time. This part of the process does take time, but it’s worth it to put in the extra effort to connect with someone. That’s what will get you noticed. The key is not to be long-winded. Yes, what you’re sharing is great, fabulous and awesome I’m sure, but anything too long might get ignored. Be concise and to the point as far as what you’re asking for them to do.

Provide incentive: Be prepared to offer them something in return. What are you going to do for them that gives them a reason to even respond? Are you offering a complimentary product, are you willing to sponsor/fund a post? Sometimes bloggers (especially with greater reach) will only participate if you’re willing to provide a financial investment. It’s important to know upfront if that’s something you’re willing to consider. And if not, it’s good information to know and could be useful in the future.

Follow up: So you’ve sent your message. Next requires follow up, but make sure you’ve given the appropriate time to respond. Pay attention to automatic messages. If you get something stating, “Due to a high volume of emails,” you have to take into consideration that if might take them some time to even see your email. Wait a week. A lot of bloggers won’t engage until the follow up response. Planning your blogger outreach campaign well in advance will help allow for the turn around time it sometimes takes to get a response.

Support content creation: Once someone has agreed to participate, make it as easy for the blogger to develop his or her content. Provide them with information about the product. Is there a unique backstory about how it was created? If so, make sure to share, consumers care not only about the product, but a good brand story can help capture someone’s attention. Are there specific product features or benefits they need to know? The blogger may not know these intimate details so make sure you include. Many times bloggers will take their own photos of the product, but sometimes supplying additional imagery helps to support content. They may be featuring one product style, but if you want to show the breadth of a product line, that can be communicated through an additional photo.

Track your results: So your product has been featured, it’s time to track your results based on what you established as your goals. Monitor your website traffic, social media following and engagement. Make sure to thank the blogger for their efforts, you could be establishing an ongoing relationship with a blogger that may be interested in featuring your product more than once as you introduce new styles, limited edition collections, etc.

Be prepared for the negative: Something to keep in mind with this type of program though is you don’t have complete control in the process. You have to be prepared to hear the negative. There’s always a possibility your product won’t be a hit with everyone. It may mean the product isn’t right for them or it could be an opportunity for improvement based on some honest feedback.

Consider alternative outreach opportunities. Blogs are not the only platform brands have an opportunity to conduct outreach. Each social media platform (Google+, Twitter, Instagram) has influencers that create a potential for you to connect your brand with consumers. An interesting Instagram example was one carried out by shoe brand Puma. With a goal to increase their followers, the brand reached out to influential Instagrammers and sent to events (even some overseas) equipped with a camera to document “awesome places that shoes take you.”

Another unique example is how Audi utilized Twitter. After a raving Audi fan created a hashtag, #WantAnR8, around her desire to acquire an Audi R8, the brand made notice and gave her an Audi for the day to experience, document and share with her Twitter community. Audi promoted the event via twitter and encouraged others to do the same, resulting in a giveaway of eight more R8s. What’s interesting about that example is that the consumer created the opportunity, Audi was just smart enough to be listening.

The more unique the approach, the greater opportunity your outreach will standout in the crowd and gain a following. Start by considering what platform for outreach might be appropriate based on where your customers are spending their time online.

photo credit: Mylla
modified by Shout Out Studio

Ways to Wrap Up the Year

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It’s the end of the year, now what do you do? For each individual what we choose to do can vary greatly. No particular approach is right, but each one can help you either learn from the days of past or plan for the days ahead. Here are some ways we plan to wrap up the year:

Nathaniel Seevers

Though the happenings of the previous year are never wiped clean away, the start of a new year can be a great mental and emotional checkpoint. Both personal and business, there’s value in reflection and building goals around the positive – around improvement and around reward.

This year I’m asking myself these questions:

If I could only pick one, what is one particular area I want to focus on improving next year?
And how. Can steps be mapped out to get there? Then I would ask the same question for our business

How can I get better at disconnecting?
Hard work is rewarding. I love the work we do. I love being busy. But as our resident runner, Gretchen, will tell you, a sprint isn’t sustainable over the long journey. Part of being productive and being our best is understanding how to recharge and what drives the creative process. For me, that means time to disconnect from email and social media, from surfing the internet. I’m working on building more times like that into my weeks for next year.

Luke Pierce

Unless you are ridiculously lucky, I am sure that everyone reading this has faced some sort of adversity over the past year. We all come across misfortune now and again, but that is just part of life. The best thing you can do after a situation like that is to learn from it. The trouble is most people don’t take the time to really think about it and commit to change.

To wrap up my year, I am going to take some time to think about the worst things that happened this past year and how I handled it, probably with a nice glass of bourbon. I hope to not just learn from the past, but I hope to actually change it. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over. My point is that learning something new is pointless unless you put it into action. Learning is good, changing is better. I suggest you change and usher in a new modus operandi for the new year.

Gretchen Ardizzone

For me wrapping up the year means planning to start the next on the right foot…literally. As Nathaniel mentioned, I’m a runner. This time of year I reflect on the races I ran, the goals I set, challenges experienced, accomplishments made and what it took to get there. And then, I plan to do it all over again. Setting new goals, searching for new courses, and establishing my training. To keep myself organized I even use an excel sheet to track the whole process.

Sometimes by the end of the year, you’re exhausted and all you want to do is decompress (or hang up your running shoes), but getting organized is a great way to successfully start out the new year with a clear focus. For digital marketing one of the best tools I recommend is an editorial content calendar. It can be helpful to plan article and blog post topics, campaigns, ebooks, as well as scheduling social media content. This also relieves the stress of knowing who is doing what and when. You can assign who is writing the content when you plan to publish, and where you plan to distribute. There are a variety of resources you can use like WordPress Calendar or CoSchedule, or even managing through Google Docs or downloading a free excel template can make the process easy. Browse around and see what works best for you!

Marsh Williams

The end of the year is always a special time for me. I really look forward to it for a number of reasons. First, it’s more time to spend with my family and friends which is a very precious thing. Secondly, it’s a time to be thankful, reflect and rest.

Regardless of how any given year goes, there is always so much to be thankful for; people met, lessons learned, successes, and even my failures. Stepping back and looking at things in perspective is a great exercise, a great time to reflect on what happened, what surprised me and what I’d like to change going forward.

Lastly, the end of the year is a time to rest. A time to get ready for the new year ahead, and a time to set work aside for other priorities. We’ve embraced this at Shout Out to the point where we are closed for the full week between Christmas and the New Year.

I hope you have time to rest also and get ready for the incredible things to come on 2014.

 

photo credit: allerleirau
modified by Shout Out Studio

An old radio

Technology that died to make way for new

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Innovation is fueled by taking existing products and making them better. It’s about knowing what the customer needs before they know they need it. Companies like Apple have thrived for years by making the next iteration for products already in the market. But for a new product to be created often times, one had to pave the way. So today, we give thanks to the technology that died to make way for new:

Luke Pierce

I was eight when we got Prodigy. It was my family’s first foray, as it was many others, into the Internet. For those of you who don’t remember, Prodigy was a subscription service that offered access to things like news, shopping, weather, and games via a dial-up connection. It also added a web browsing service shortly down the road, however it was very limited. At the time, I don’t think I realized the potential of something like this. It was simply something that my dad seemed excited about as well as an excuse for me to play computer games. However looking back on it now, I realize how important Prodigy was, not just for me, but for thousands of kids my age. It served as a primer to the real Internet. Prodigy served as the foundation for the expectation I now have the ability to access information about anything I want at any given moment. With the rise of the internet browser, it didn’t take long for Prodigy to die.

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Content Marketing

Content Marketing Matters of the Moment

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When you spend your days working as a marketing consultant and content creator, you can only imagine the number of articles, tweets, blog posts, white papers, newsletters, email communications… (need I go on) read on a daily basis. For some, it could be overwhelming, but for me, it’s what I live for and love… scouring for good content, thought-provoking ideas, and inspiring marketing. So with that said here’s my list of Top 5 Content Marketing Matters of the Moment. This is what’s been on my mind…

1. How Much Personalization is Too Much?

A little while back I read a HubSpot article addressing the question, “How much personalization do you want as a marketer and a consumer?” The subject still lingers with me as I watch the industry continue down a path of personalized content. Through advances in technology and with the use of analytics, online experiences are more customized than ever. My music lists are curated based on previous listening sessions, news content is tailored to what I was reading last, ads are targeted at the products I’ve browsed, but the devil’s advocate in me can’t help but wonder when does it all remove the fun of discovery? Will I ever get back to being a blank slate consumer where I freely decide what is for me?

2. Content Marketing Applies to You Too

Many brands get confused and think, “Oh content marketing is for someone else. What stories do we have to tell?” Sometimes that takes a little bit of an effort to discover for some brands more so than others. We often spend time with our partners talking about what their buyers and consumers want to know in order to determine what type of content is relevant. And other times we just simply ask! One category that hasn’t fully embraced content marketing opportunities is the restaurant category. The whole aspect of food is social and shared. Granted for some brands it may not be appropriate, but without a doubt some of the best content marketers out there are food service brands like Chipotle, and my personal favorites Sweetgreen and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. What makes them so successful with content marketing? A compelling brand story at the heart of it all. Spend time crafting that and you’ve got something to share.

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Digital Marketing Horror Story

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Cue the blood-curdling scream…

It’s that time of year when the weather changes and we all prepare for the usual Halloween activities like trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, horror flicks, hayrides and haunted houses. Given the seasonal timeliness, the subject matter of our marketing meeting yesterday ended with each of us telling our own Digital Marketing Horror Story. Please avoid these terrifying tactics at all cost.

Luke Pierce

You know that iconic vision of a haunted house? Those once beautiful Victorian homes that have sat lonely on a hilltop rotting and decaying for years? Well, the Internet is riddled with their website equivalents. It’s horrifying.

Some believe that a website is a one-and-done type of thing. They believe that once it’s built, it will sit in pristine condition until the end of time. The truth is, it is just like our haunted house. It decays over time without attention. It gets forgotten about. People stop visiting. It starts to inhibit ghosts of your copyright past. Frankly, there is nothing that scares the shit out of me more than when I log onto a website and see 2002 ©.

Marsh Williams

So… we’ve all been there. We’re looking for something and we click a Google ad and poof… we’re magically transported to the mystical land of landing pages. Once I’m there I resist the siren call to give them all of my information before I learn more about the product. I attempt to go to the corporate website and read some more, but noooooo, I’m trapped! I’ve fallen for the oldest of gambits, next to “Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line,” and there is no way to leave the landing page. No link to the company home page, no hidden link in the company logo, no link anywhere to other information the company would probably want me to know about. Yes, worse than a corn-maze with no exit, a landing page with no way out.

By the way, I’m still stuck on the page and can’t seem to find my way home. Send pizza…

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Movie Quotes to Market By

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We all love movies, but what we love even more are those memorable one-liners that you hear repeated time and time again. Earlier this week as we were reciting some of the favorites (of course with our best celebrity impression), we thought why not turn this into a useful exercise. So for this week’s Free-for-all Friday, we’ve selected our favorite movie quotes and what that means for marketing. Here are some Movie Quotes to Market By…

Luke Pierce

“You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.” – The Princess Bride
There is nothing more annoying than seeing slogans, ads and propaganda that is chock-full of trendy buzzwords that A) don’t apply to the message and B) have to be defined before you can understand the message. Trust me there are enough words in the English language that are available to help craft your message and get your point across. Use plain speak everyone understands.

“Damn! We’re in a tight spot.” – O’ Brother Where Art Thou?
You know why you’re in a tight spot? It’s because you are approaching marketing as a last resort. There are too many companies out there that read more

Admirable Brand Marketing

Admirable Brand Marketing

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We spend a lot of our time helping brands increase their marketing effectiveness, but yesterday we sat back and took a moment to appreciate those who are doing it right. Here are a few brands, big and small, we admire for thinking holistically when it comes to marketing and telling their story.

Gretchen Ardizzone—Warby Parker

When thinking about admirable brand marketing, for me, it’s got to be Warby. I watched this brand go from undercover indie to mainstream cool, all while managing to maintain their authentic, genuine, do-good attitude. Warby Parker launched in 2010 with its home try-on program and a mission to offer boutique-style glasses at affordable prices.

What makes it admirable is what they’re marketing is bigger than just eyewear. The brand evokes a physical representation of literacy. Heck, the name was even born from two character’s names, Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper, from writer Jack Kerouac’s journal. read more

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